That is the question. There’s a huge range of salts and sugars you can buy.. from the fine, white stuff that a pound a penny, to pink/black/grey flaked salt that costs £20 for 30g, or clumpy dark brown raw, unrefined cane sugar. The assumption is that higher cost means higher quality, but of course that’s not always the case, so how can you tell what’s better? Is any of it better? Is any of it healthy? Is any of it unsafe?
After some research and a conversation with a chemist turned gardener, I think I’m a little wiser, and here’s what I’ve learnt…
Refined salt is stripped of all it’s trace minerals, but realistically the mineral content is so
minimal that to see the benefits of it you’d have to be eating enough salt to give you a heart attack. I’m not saying that the trace minerals aren’t important, and it’s definitely better than no minerals, but I’m not worried about it. Except iodine, which I worry about not getting enough of since I eat very little seaweed, but turns out they add iodine to most salt anyway. My bigger concern is the chemicals they bleach it with, some of which are retained in the product you buy, most of which are toxic.
I think an untampered with product is always going to be better for you, and living in such a coastal country I think that unrefined sea salt is the best option. Unrefined rock salt is undoubtably better than table salt, but please consider the air miles that most likely went into getting it here. And salt intake should be limited, despite what type you’re eating. That being said, if you avoid processed food and drinks and cook for yourself, you should be fine.
Refined sugar, on the other hand, can come from beets or sugar cane, and it’s all refined to some extent, but to what extent varies greatly. Most raw sugar is minimally refined – boiled once – cane sugar, with it’s natural molasses retained. Refined, white sugar is boiled several times, bleached with chemicals and fined through beef bone char. Now, firstly, it’s not vegan – who decided to make beef a part of sugar?? Fuck off. Demerara sugar goes through much the same process except that molasses are added, since it’s been stripped of it’s natural molasses.
So, I would say that raw sugar is better, although chemically they’re all basically the same except different size of molecules, but at least it’s vegan and without chemicals.
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you choose, but I always advise where possible to eat the most natural product you can, and make sure you’re choosing a fair trade and organic product – because your choices affect other people too.
Please do comment below if you’d like to join this discussion, or hit me up on Facebook.